The Cancer Ravaging Earth
How to Defeat It
MONEY. MONEY. MONEY.
That’s right. It’s all about . . . money.
And why not? Money is as pervasive as the air we breathe. And almost as important, because it affects every aspect of our lives: where we work, where we live, how we live, and even how long we live. So money consumes our thoughts and controls our lives. It drives our ambitions, colors our dreams, sparks our disputes, and stokes our anxieties.
Money. It’s here, there, and everywhere. No wonder it’s considered with the same degree of inevitability and blind acceptance as if it were an unavoidable force of nature. Such as gravity. Or electromagnetism.
But money is not a force of nature. It’s an idea. A concept. A figment of the human imagination made real only to the extent that we allow it to rule our lives and our relationships with one another, which is exactly what we have allowed it to do for far too long, and at a terrible price in human suffering. However, there are two good reasons to believe that the time has finally come to break money’s destructive, debilitating, and suffocating grip on human society:
Because we must.
And because we can.
BUT FIRST, WHAT IS MONEY? And what purpose does it serve? In dictionaries and economics textbooks money is defined universally with the same three words: medium of exchange. And its ascribed purpose is to facilitate economic activity as illustrated by such examples as the ease with which it allows a shoemaker to exchange his labor for bread without having to search for a baker in need of shoe repair.
On that primitive and simplistic level, the concept of money no doubt did serve some useful purpose in times past. Today, however, money serves a far different and insidious purpose as reflected in a widening contradiction between the definition of money in theory and its practice in reality.
Those same dictionaries that define money as a medium of exchange also define exchange. And exchange means to give or transfer in consideration of something received, as an equivalent. Something of equal value. That’s the theory. In reality, however, parties engaged in an economic transaction with money serving as the medium are not engaged in a mutual search for equivalency. In reality, in economic transactions between buyers and sellers, employers and employees, borrowers and lenders, and renters and landlords, each side seeks to advantage itself at the expense of the other. And it’s this persistent and relentless competitive spirit, in transactions large and small, that pervades the entire global economic system like a toxic cloud driven by a frenzied, worldwide, no-holds-barred free-for-all in the universal struggle for money.
Money, therefore, is not a medium of exchange, as its theoretical definition implies. Rather, money, as utilized in the real world, is a medium of competition. And with its ability to digitize, and thereby dehumanize, every economic transaction, money has become both the facilitator and the score-keeping mechanism for the Mother of All Monopoly Games, a game in which we are all required to participate whether we like it or not, and a game in which every individual on the planet competes — directly or indirectly, on one level or another — with everyone else on the planet.
And it’s also a game played around the world according to three competing ideologies or isms — capital-ism, social-ism, and commune-ism — each claiming to be the one true economic religion. But despite their political and cultural differences, all three are indistinguishable from one another in their common pursuit of money above all else, and in their use of money as a powerful instrument of control.
Call the game they play Moneyopoly.
And call the ideology they share moneyism.
THE PROPONENTS OF MONEYISM — call them moneyists — are fond of characterizing money as the lifeblood of the economy. It is not. Labor, human labor, is the economy’s lifeblood. Money is a cancer that is attacking the lifeblood by diverting a growing proportion of the workforce away from the economic system and into the financial system.
That’s right. It’s not all one system that we commonly refer to as “the economy” or “the economic system.” It is little understood or appreciated that we are living in a global society that is shaped by the interaction between two systems. We have an economic system that, by definition, produces, distributes, and consumes goods and services. And we have a financial system that controls the economic system. The problem is that these two systems are at sharp odds with one another in the purposes they were created to serve. The purpose of the economic system is to provide the life-sustaining goods and services required by the population. The purpose of the financial system is to exploit the economic system for financial gain.
Unfortunately, these two systems have become conflated under the single rubric of economics, and have become so intertwined that it is nearly impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends, leading to the widespread but mistaken belief that we can’t have one without the other, that is, we can’t have an economic system without a financial system.
Economists must bear responsibility for this misconception due to their failure to distinguish between the two systems and by their mysteriously choosing to call themselves economists when their primary interest is finance. When economists warn that a country’s economy is at risk, they are not referring to the country’s productive capacity but rather to its financial system. They should call themselves financialists.
The unfortunate consequence of this melding of the two systems into one in the public consciousness is that it camouflages moneyiism’s role in society’s unsustainable dysfunction,
In the sixties, it was the brilliant futurist R. Buckminster Fuller — whose many inventions included the geodesic dome — who never ceased to remind us that we are all fellow passengers and crewmembers alike aboard Spaceship Earth. He also took note of the troubling dichotomy of the workforce and expressed the opinion that, at that time, in the United States, the most advanced economy in the world, 60 percent of the jobs produced nothing of life-sustaining value.
Today, 50-plus years later, it feels like 80 percent!
If this is true, it means that, in the developed world, out of every five workers, only one is employed in the economic system, tasked with producing the essential goods and services needed to sustain all the rest of us, while the other four are busily engaged in the care and feeding of some aspect or other of the financial system, which produces nothing of life-sustaining value while consuming enormous amounts of precious human and natural resources.
This situation, viewed from the broadest perspective, clarifies moneyism’s role in the failure of the economic system to fulfill its purpose of caring for the needs of the people. It also testifies to moneyism’s surpassingly successful effort at fulfilling its own purpose of seeking financial gain.
Therein lie both the cause and the cure of society’s unsustainable dysfunction.
WE HUMANS HAVE LEARNED A LOT about this planet and how it works. Collectively, down through the ages and piece by piece, we have assembled a deep understanding of Earth’s physical, chemical, biological, and electromagnetic forces, and how they operate. As a result, we are capable of the most dazzling achievements. You might even say that we have taken over control of our own evolution. It appears there is nothing we cannot do once we decide to do it.
But as impressive as our accomplishments may be, it is troubling to consider what we appear determined not to do, that is, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and care for the sick, despite the fact that, in our anything-is-possible era, such human suffering is easily assuaged. Which begs the question, Why, then, have we not done so? Lack of money is the usual excuse, but the real answer lies elsewhere.
It should come as no surprise that an ideology, such as moneyism, that is driven by competition between its adherents, will produce both winners and losers. And it should come a no surprise that the winners, with the power and influence of their winnings, will use their advantages to continue the pursuit of an ever-widening gulf between themselves and the losers.
There are plentiful attempts to praise the benefits of this competitive game. It’s a familiar refrain: competition forces everyone to excel, work harder, be more productive, become inventive, produce better products. Then, if the “free” market is permitted to work its magic, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” will guide human activity in the most productive and desirable directions, and the entire human race will benefit, because “a rising tide lifts all boats.” As for individuals, if they work hard, are thrifty, honest, and conscientious, and if they adopt the entrepreneurial spirit, and truly believe in themselves, they will surely prosper.
Nonsense. This game is rigged. The truth is that hard work, conscientiously and honestly performed, is no guarantee of success. There is, in fact, considerable evidence to support the belief that the reverse is true, that in our competitive, financially controlled economic system the decent, hard-working people are the ones who get screwed, while those who are devious and manipulative and clever enough to figure out ways to advantage themselves within the workings of this labyrinthine financial system, and its complex rules, with a bit of good luck thrown in, are the ones who walk off with the spoils. If they are born at the right time and in the right place or marry into the right family; if they hire the top lawyers, accountants, and investment advisors; if they learn how to execute a leveraged buyout, downsize a corporation, cook the books, lobby the Congress, bribe the authorities, romance the bankers, devise exotic financial instruments, and trade stocks on insider information, then the numbers in their bank accounts, their scores, will keep rising: five million, a hundred million, five hundred million, a billion, three billion. It is never enough, and the bigger the number, the more extravagant the praise. As the faces of these masters of the universe appear on the covers of Fortune, Forbes, and Bloomberg Business Week magazines, and their successes are glorified and their lifestyles admired in glowing profiles on the pages within, the workers who made it all possible struggle to stay financially afloat.
The mind struggles to grasp the magnitude of a billionaire’s wealth. For the great majority of Earth’s inhabitants, a million dollars is a vast sum, and to become a millionaire would be a comfortable and satisfying, but rare, achievement. Out of a world population of 7.8 billion, only 46.8 million (less than one per cent) have achieved that level of success.
But while the wealth of a millionaire may require a stretch of the imagination for the vast majority, the wealth of a billionaire is arguably beyond comprehension. Try to get your head around the fact that a billionaire is a millionaire a thousand times over! Then try to grasp that, according to the latest count, there are 2,755 billionaires on the planet collectively controlling more than $13 trillion of monetized wealth.
This level of wealth concentration at a time of widespread human suffering and deprivation is obscene and morally repugnant, especially since wealth concentration ranks as the primary cause of human deprivation. Such extremes of wealth and poverty are prima facie evidence that the financial system, at its very core, is fatally flawed and ultimately unsustainable.
Nevertheless, birthing billionaires appears to be moneyism’s proudest achievement, or so it would seem from comments by Steve Forbes, Editor-in-Chief of Forbes magazine (that self-proclaimed “capitalist tool”).
“Who cares whether someone is worth $2 billion or $6 billion,” he asks in an editorial in one of his annual celebratory surveys of billionaires and billionaire culture.
“We do,” he answers. “That personal stash is a critical barometer of how well the nation — and, to a degree, the world — is doing.”
The cover of Forbes’ latest billionaire issue continues its defense of the indefensible by gleefully declaring, “A NEW BILLIONAIRE EVERY DAY – As the world suffered over the past year, great fortunes were forged at an unprecedented rate. The dynamics underlying them point to a better future for everyone.”
Not so. Billionaire wealth is a measure of how well billionaires are doing, but also a jarring reminder of how poorly the rest of us, and the planet itself, are doing. The evidence well establishes that in good times, the rich do very well, but in bad times, they do even better.
The latest figures highlight this absurdity. Last year, Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX) ) was worth $22 billion; a year later, he’s worth $151 billion and is now the second wealthiest man on the planet. Last year, Jeff Bezos (Amazon) was worth $131 billion; a year later, he’s worth $177 billion. And so on, down the list. During the past year the population of billionaire nation grew by 680, and its collective wealth rose by 60 percent, all during the year of the pandemic when social chaos and fear were unleashed upon a fragile planet
And to what end? Bezos and Musk , the world Moneyopoly champions, show the way. They have embarked upon a space race, once the activity of nations, but now just another example of the principle that, if you have enough money, you can do or have nearly anything you desire, regardless of its impact upon the environment or society-at-large.
However, since greed apparently knows no limits, and however wealthy a person may be, there is always a larger number to strive for, it is likely the race will soon begin to see who will become the first trillionaire. (that would be a a billionaire a thousand times over.)
With greed run amok, the pursuit of corporate profits by these titans of business has yielded a legacy of life-threatening climate change, reckless natural resource depletion, mountains and oceans of hazardous waste, and shameful environmental degradation, all the while inflicting suffering, deprivation, inequity, and social injustice upon the rest of the population. No need to roll out a detailed bill of particulars here and now. We are already saturated with frightening reminders that we are caught in an accelerating vortex of destructive forces, unleashed in the pursuit of financial gain. Meanwhile, billionaires flourish while the planet, in extremis, gasps for air.
BUT NOW, SUDDENLY AND WITHOUT WARNING: THE RECKONING. The global financial system was already trembling on the brink of the precipice when along came Covid-19 and pushed it over the edge. Financial inequity was slowing the economic process, a worrisome development for moneyism, which, like all Ponzi schemes, requires continuous growth. If there had been any hope of engineering a recovery, that fantasy was blown apart by Covid-19. The plunge in economic activity was swift and devastating. Experts confessed they had no idea how or when all this is going to end, but given the amount of damage already done, it is now clear that we are watching the final death throes of moneyism, the collapse of the largest and longest-running Ponzi scheme of all time. And when Ponzi schemes collapse, there is no way to put them back together again. It would be folly to try.
According to R. Buckminster Fuller, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
It was Fuller’s life-long dream to find a way to make the world work for all humanity. One strategy he pursued but never fully realized was something he called The World Game. An inventory was to be taken of all the planet’s human and natural resources, as well as all of humankind’s needs. Then, teams of experts were to compete in finding a way to match the needs with available resources, which is the essential purpose of a successful economic system, thereby making the world work for all humanity.
The Whole Earth Design Project (WEDP) is an iteration of that idea. The objective is to design, in cyberspace, an ecologically and environmentally sustainable economic system capable of providing every individual on the planet with all of life’s essentials as a template for the reorganization of the economic system in the real world. This will be a collaborative effort, expert-guided and data-driven. (www.design.thecoalescence.net )
Planned as a four-stage effort, Stage I will be devoted to conducting a feasibility study to confirm that the project’s objective is attainable. To conduct this study, we have targeted the following ten of life’s essentials: clean and safe air, water, food, clothing, and shelter, as well as access to communication, information, transportation, health care, and energy. And we are in the process of identifying the individuals and organizations around the world most knowledgeable and experienced in each of these ten economic sectors.
We plan to organize ten teams of volunteer researchers (you could be one of them) to survey the experts for their consensus answer to the question: Do we possess sufficient human and natural resources, along with the appropriate scientific knowledge and technological expertise, to fulfill the WEDP objective of providing universal access to all of life’s essentials?
We expect the answer to be a resounding Yes! There is enough of everything essential for everyone! If so, then on to Stages II, III, and IV! (See the website for details. )
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO OVERSTATE THE IMPORTANCE of this moment in human history. Powerful forces at work in the world today are propelling us toward an extraordinary event — a flashpoint — in the evolutionary history of this planet, an event matched in significance on only two previous occasions.
The first extraordinary event took place incomprehensible eons ago with the emergence, out of the agitated primordial stew, of a complex assemblage of molecules with the ability to reproduce itself, setting in motion the evolution of the spectacular variety of living organisms inhabiting Earth today, including homo sapiens.
The second extraordinary event was the emergence in the human species of a uniquely high level of intelligence, resulting in an explosive acceleration of evolutionary change. Suddenly, lightning-quick technological invention, rather than biological diversity and natural selection, began driving the evolutionary process, and in a few ticks of the evolutionary clock, the human species developed characteristics and abilities far beyond that of any other earthbound species.
And now, we find ourselves racing toward the third extraordinary event, an event for which the emergence of life and the emergence of human intelligence were but dim preludes. Call that event The Coalescence, the great coming together of all humanity, thereby lifting the human race onto another and higher plane of existence.
Given the chaotic state of world society, this optimistic vision of the future must seem wildly off the mark. Not so. The most powerful weapon available in our epic struggle against the lethality of money, as well as well as in support of the life-affirming objective of The Coalescence, is communication. Accordingly, the essence of The Coalescence is connectivity.
We are living in what could rightly be called the Age of Communication, and we are both its beneficiaries and its victims, depending upon the purpose to which it is employed at any one time. By far, the greatest amount of data saturating the electromagnetic ether is employed in the service of moneyism and the financial system to which it has given birth for the sole purpose of pursuing financial gain.
In an attempt to reveal the obvious, it is the intent of the WEDP to expose the cost of maintaining the financial system (in terms of labor rather than monetarily) as against the cost of actually producing and distributing goods and services. In doing so we will be using the Internet and its extraordinary capabilities for education and organization.
For whatever reason, it appears that this is a comparison no one chooses to make. But if you are one of those who see the obvious, please join us. With a straightforward research project that is not very complicated, and in a short time, we will make the obvious, obvious. We will unveil, with the fanfare of a thousand metaphorical trumpets, a case beyond dispute and thereby spark a movement that will take us across the threshold toward which humanity has been striving since the emergence of human intelligence.
To succeed in this collective effort, we need your feedback, so please offer a comment. We also urge you to share this statement with all your contacts, no doubt including some who will be happy to read it, perhaps even support it. If you believe this is a useful effort, with the potential to have a positive effect, then please volunteer. Or at least subscribe to our newsletter to keep informed of our progress. There may be a point at which you decide to jump in and get involved. And finally, with more than a bit of irony, any financial assistance you can offer would be greatly appreciated and helpful
THE IDEOLOGY OF MONEYISM HAS FAILED. Our task now is to create a better way of living together on this planet. That new way must be founded on an ideology — long proclaimed but short on acceptance — that affirms that, as humans, we are all equal, and each and every one of us is worthy of full participation in life’s potential. Call that new ideology . . .
That’s our journey, from Moneyism to Humanism.
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